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Do Career Managers Actually Outperform Stars?

Sean Silverthorne has a good post on the car czar concept being floated as a lifesaver for Detroit. He raises a number of the issues, but hones in on the idea of a political appointee being in charge of the U.S. car business. Is a political appointee running the car companies a good idea? he asks.

Research suggests not. As Shankar Vedantam outlines in Who are the Better Managers -- Political Appointees or Career Bureaucrats?

the bureaucrats whipped the politicals: Programs administered by civil servants were significantly more likely to display better strategic planning, program design, financial oversight -- and results. These findings, remember, were based on the Bush administration's own evaluation system -- the Program Assessment Rating Tool, administered by the Office of Management and Budget.
This was true even though on average, the political appointees were better educated and had stellar resumes, and looked like better candidates.

For businesses, the parallel is clear -- look inside the organization to get the performance you want.

Michael Fitzgerald

Michael Fitzgerald writes about innovation and other big ideas in business for publications like the New York Times, The Economist, Fast Company, Inc. and CIO. He’s worked as a writer or editor at Red Herring, ZDNet, TechTV and Computerworld, and has received numerous awards as a writer and editor. Most recently, his piece on the hacker collective the l0pht won the 2008 award for best trade piece from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He was also a 2007 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion.

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